Delegates from the Alliance of Small Island Nations (AOSIS) underscore the need to fight global warming and adapt to its effects as UN's 22nd Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change unfolds in Marrakesh.
Negotiators representing the Alliance of Small Island Nations (AOSIS) underscored the need to speed up efforts to combat global warming and adapt to its effects. “I’m happy about the progress that we are making, but we have a lot more work to do,” said Hugh Sealy, a climate change consultant for the United Nations who helped negotiate last year’s Paris agreement, which committed the world’s nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is attending the Morocco conference as the lead negotiator for small island countries.
“We are still on a trajectory for at least 3 degrees of warming even if all the countries in the world did what they promised to do,” he said. “So it’s absolutely essential that we increase our efforts and that we reduce our emissions as quickly as possible.”
Sealy, a professor at St. George’s University in Grenada, shared his thoughts on the urgency of tackling climate change and the key concerns for the 44 low-lying coastal countries that are among the most vulnerable.
The Paris agreement last year was historic because, for the first time, it locked in long-term temperature goals, like what we hope to achieve in terms of combating climate change. That’s what we call mitigation. In Paris, we agreed that we would limit global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial times and pursue keeping it below 1.5 degrees of warming because the small islands have clearly indicated that even 2 degrees of warming will be too much. We see 1.5 degree of warming as essential to our survival. So at this conference, we want to move toward keeping that 1.5 degrees of warming and raising our global ambition as far as mitigation goes, which is saying we have to reduce our emissions as quickly as possible, explained Sealy.
A second priority for us is finance. Developed countries have promised that they would give us $100 billion a year. But right now the Green Climate Fund [established by the United Nations to help developing countries counter climate change] is only financed at $10 billion over a four-year period, which is $2.5 billion a year. So we’re very, very far away from that $100 billion a year that was promised to us, he continued. So what’s terribly important to us at this conference is that the developed countries lay out a road map as to how we’re going to get to that $100 billion a year by 2020.
The third priority for us is adaptation. And adaptation to climate change is a realization that some of the effects of climate change are already occurring. For example, sea level rise. We know we are going to face at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) of sea level rise by the end of the century. Last year was the hottest year on record. This year is headed toward breaking that record. If it does, it will of course push 2015 to second place and 2014 into third place. So we’ve had the three hottest years in a row. We are in the middle of climate change now, so being able to adapt is a huge priority for small islands as well.
Regarding US President-elect Donald Trump's view on climate change, Sealy said he though there are valid concerns because of he has said, but we’re optimistic that he will realize that climate change is a global issue that America cannot divorce itself from.
Sealy also stressed the importance of masures to bring down global warming through concrete government actions. It was President George H.W. Bush who used markets to combat acid rain though a system called 'cap and trade,' where he put a cap on sulfur dioxide emissions - utility companies that were able to reduce their emissions by a significant amount got credits and were able to sell these credits to other power companies that were not as efficient in reducing their emissions and everyone stayed below this cap, he explained.
The same principle is now being applied to carbon dioxide, in search of a chance to create our own carbon market within the Caribbean under Article 6 of the Paris agreement, he added.
AOSIS has a membership of 44 states, of which 39 are members of the United Nations and 5 observers from all around the world. The alliance represents 28% of the developing countries, and 20% of the UN's total membership.